N.M. to adopt Calif.’s tougher standards

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In a rebuke to President Trump, New Mexico will adopt California’s more stringent clean car standards, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced yesterday at Climate Week in New York City.

The move comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s attempts to curtail state rights to impose tougher standards.

“To combat climate change, to keep New Mexico’s citizens safe, to protect the air we all breathe, it’s essential we adopt more stringent clean car standards that increase fuel economy and reduce emissions,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

“While President Trump threatens to rob New Mexico and indeed all states of a valuable tool for combating air pollution and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico will stand up and deliver on our commitment to environmental leadership,” she added.

The move aligns New Mexico with California and 13 other states that have adopted tougher vehicle emissions standards than the federal government.

However, those state standards are under attack by the Trump administration.

Indeed, EPA and the Department of Transportation last week proposed revoking California’s Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases, which enshrines the state’s legal authority to set the tougher tailpipe pollution rules (Greenwire, Sept. 19).

Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), a coalition of 22 states promptly sued the Trump administration over the proposal (Greenwire, Sept. 20).

While the court battle plays out, the fate of California and its allies remains uncertain.

Even so, environmentalists praised Lujan Grisham for her leadership, predicting that the Golden State would prevail in court.

“This is a positive development. The more states that announce their intention to join the program and oppose Trump’s attack on it, the better,” said Andrew Linhardt, deputy director of advocacy for the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign.

“I’m sure all of the Section 177 states are pretty nervous about these attacks on the Clean Air Act,” Linhardt said. “But we feel pretty confident in their legal arguments. We’re just going to have to see how it plays out.”

New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board first adopted the tougher clean car standards in 2007, under then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat. But the state repealed them in 2013 under Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

Lujan Grisham, a first-term governor, has set aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a state known for its booming oil and gas industry.

In March, she signed S.B. 489, which includes a renewable energy standard for investor-owned utilities of at least 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2040.

Earlier this week, she announced a partnership between state regulators and the private sector aimed at detecting and curbing planet-warming methane pollution from oil and gas operations (Climatewire, Sept. 23).

A spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham shared a press release touting the clean cars announcement but didn’t respond to further requests for comment.